Thwarting Crime Online

Kathryn Mulligan | September 16th, 2015 | www.middlemarketgrowth.org

CSID’s CFO discusses fraud detection, e-commerce tax law and why she chose tech

Amanda Nevins is CFO of CSID, a provider of global identity protection and fraud detection technologies, which she joined in 2011. She has 20 years of experience in executive finance and accounting leadership, including at the cloud-computing firm Rackspace and online retailer Zappos.com. During Nevins’ tenure at CSID, the company’s revenue has increased more than 30 percent year over year. In 2015, CSID was named an ACG Central Texas Growth Award finalist and one of the 50 Fastest Growing Companies in Central Texas by the Austin Business Journal.

MMG: Can you describe the market CSID serves?

Amanda Nevins: CSID was founded in 2006 and is the technology provider for 80 percent of the retail identity protection industry, where consumers spent $1.4 billion on subscriptions last year. Cyberattacks are continuing to grow in number and intensity, and identity theft is a significant consumer concern. Customers are seeking the next generation of online identity management solutions as their identities become increasingly digital.

According to a Javelin Strategy and Research study, fraudsters stole $16 billion from 12.7 million consumers last year, which is the second highest incidence of victims since the study’s inception in 2003. It’s a significant concern for consumers, considering that every two seconds there’s a new victim of identity fraud.

That’s really where CSID comes into play. We’re a leading provider of global identity protection and fraud detection technologies for businesses, their employees and consumers. Our enterprise-level solutions allow businesses to take a proactive approach to protecting the identities of customers all around the globe.

MMG: What types of products does CSID provide?

AN: To break it down, CSID is a software as a service, or SaaS-based, software company; we have a technology platform that provides businesses with identity-management services, and we brand them for clients who wish to provide services to their customers for identity protection and breach mitigation. We provide things like credit authentication, scores, reports and monitoring—sort of the traditional approach to identity monitoring.

In addition, CSID has developed technologies that include non-credit identity monitoring. Through our proprietary CyberAgent Internet surveillance technology, we scour Internet properties to identify the illegal trading and selling of personal information like Social Security numbers, email addresses, credit card numbers and more.

Beyond identity protection monitoring services, CSID also offers identity restoration services to assist in the event that an individual’s identity is compromised. These services deliver value when customers need it most and help individuals clear fraudulent information from their records after an identity theft event.

MMG: What attracted you to this industry?

AN: I started my career in the retail space, working for luxury brands and big box retailers. It was just a natural transition as the Internet and e-commerce became more prevalent, and it was an easy migration into e-commerce. I really found a love for automation, systems and online capabilities pretty early in my career. I worked in an e-commerce environment for a number of years, and that just seemed to be a very natural transition—because it’s very technology-based—to working for a cloud-based hosting company, Rackspace, and CSID, which I joined in 2011.

MMG: Can you talk about your involvement during Zappos.com’s sale to Amazon in 2009?

AN: Working at Zappos was a tremendous opportunity and experience. I was fortunate to run the accounting, finance, tax, analytics, logistics and even the back-end SAP technology team, so my scope was pretty broad. We originally thought we would take the company public; I was hired to get us ready for an IPO. But Amazon came across with an offer that we really just couldn’t pass up.

I worked with our management team on presentations for Amazon to tell them about our company, as well as completing the due diligence that goes along with any acquisition. As you can imagine, Amazon is a very large company so they certainly had a number of people reviewing and asking lots of questions. Our biggest challenge was just putting in a lot of time and making sure we were able to answer all of their questions.

MMG: How have you seen tax rules evolve over the course of your career in technology and e-commerce businesses?

AN: I’m not a tax expert, and due to the specialized nature of tax, I tend to bring on an expert. The reason why is that, in general, most states have been updating their tax laws to fit the e-commerce environment. The biggest challenge is that many states are inconsistent with their tax treatment of e-commerce, especially with regard to electronic services.

For example, an electronic service may be considered a non-taxable service in one state but a taxable software license or lease in another state. So really only a tax specialist can dive into those details and be familiar enough with the rules in each state to tell the two apart. What I’ve found is that things have definitely gotten more complex and as a result of that, I’ve almost always ended up bringing a tax person onto my team who can solely focus on that area.

I think it would be a lot of work to get to a more uniform system, and I don’t really see that happening anytime soon. It would certainly make things easier, but there are different needs and focuses from each state, and the tax laws have been around for hundreds of years. You’ve got a situation where e-commerce is relatively new when you look at the history of accounting and tax rules, and so they’re really just catching up with e-commerce. I think the complexity will be around for a while, but I certainly think people are working really hard to try to make it easier.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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